Episode 121: An interview with Juventus FC star Eni Aluko and (American) Football is Back
On this week’s show, Amira, Lindsay, and Jessica get things started by talking about the US Open. [6:17]
Then we mix it up a bit. Listen back to a segment from Episode 25 (October 2017). In it, Lindsay, Shireen, Brenda, and Jessica discussed the racial abuse former English national soccer player Eniola Aluko faced from her former coach, the lack of support from other players, and the problems with racism within the English FA generally. [16:11] Then Shireen interviews Aluko, now a Juventus FC superstar, Guardian columnist, and author of the forthcoming book They Don't Teach This. The book is out Thursday, August 29. Shireen and Eni chat about Aluko’s writing journey and she shares some of the incredible lessons she has learned. [34:12]
Finally, Amira, Lindsay, and Jessica talk American football because somehow we are already in late August this year and football season is upon us. [57:38]
Of course, you’ll hear the Burn Pile, [1:06:08] our Bad Ass Woman of the Week, starring National Pro Fastpitch’s USSSA Pride, [1:08:48] and what is good in our worlds. [1:12:31]
Jay-Z goes to the NFL: https://theundefeated.com/features/jay-z-goes-to-the-nfl/
There Is No Ethical Dissent Under Capitalism: https://deadspin.com/there-is-no-ethical-dissent-under-capitalism-1837273054
Brian Flores Says He Played Jay-Z Songs To "Challenge" Kenny Stills, Supports His Protest: https://deadspin.com/brian-flores-said-he-played-jay-z-songs-to-challenge-1837495951
Colin Kaepernick Wants You to Know Your Rights: https://www.papermag.com/colin-kaepernick-know-your-rights-2639893401.html
College football is broken, but there’s a fix: https://www.al.com/alabamafootball/2019/08/college-football-is-broken-but-theres-a-fix.html?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=aldotcomSports_sf&utm_source=twitter
The cost of college football recruiting — and winning — is now through the roof: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/sports/college/football/2019/08/20/college-football-recruiting-georgia-leads-pack-in-soaring-costs/1659121001/
Coach Who Made $850,000 Last Year Says His Unpaid Players Are Required To Donate $50 To Program: https://deadspin.com/coach-who-made-850-000-last-year-says-his-unpaid-playe-1837307102
The NBA Tries To Make Its Luke Walton Problem Go Away: https://deadspin.com/the-nba-tries-to-make-its-luke-walton-problem-go-away-1837515337
Madison Keys Wins Western & Southern, but Keeps Eyes on U.S. Open: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/18/sports/tennis/madison-keys-western-southern.html
PHILADELPHIA BREAKS USWNT ATTENDANCE RECORD FOR STAND-ALONE FRIENDLY: https://www.ussoccer.com/stories/2019/08/philadelphia-breaks-uswnt-attendance-record-for-stand-alone-friendly
Women's Rugby World Cup to be renamed in 'ultimate statement of equality': https://www.telegraph.co.uk/rugby-union/2019/08/21/womens-rugby-world-cup-renamed-ultimate-statement-equality/
Colorado Classic Kicks Off This Thursday: https://www.endurancesportswire.com/colorado-classic-presented-by-vf-corporation-kicks-off-this-thursday/
Jessica: Welcome to Burn It All Down, the feminist sports podcast you need. I'm Jessica Luther, freelance journalist and author in Austin, Texas. On today's show, I'm joined by Amira Rose Davis, an assistant professor of History and African American studies at Penn State University, and Lindsay Gibbs, a reporter at ThinkProgress in Washington D.C.
First things first, as always, thank you to our patrons, whose support of this podcast through our ongoing patriarch campaign, make Burn It All Down possible, we're forever and always grateful. If you'd like to become a patreon, it's easy. Go to https://www.patreon.com/burnitalldown. For as little as $2 a month, you can get access exclusives like Extra Patreon only segments, or our monthly behind the scenes vlog.
Today's show is going to be a little bit different. We're going to start with the segment from episode 25, way back in October of 2017. In it, Lindsay Shireen, Brenda and I discussed the racial abuse former English national soccer player, Eniola Aluko faced from her former coach, the lack of support from other players, and the problems with racism within the English FA generally.
Then, we are thrilled, because we have Eni Aluko on Burn It All Down this week. Shireen interviews the Juventus FC superstar, Guardian columnist and author of the forthcoming book, ‘They Don't Teach This.' The book is out this Thursday, August 29th. Shireen and Eni chat about Aluko's writing journey, and she shares some of the incredible lessons she has learned.
If you want to hear the full 45-minute interview, we're going to post it on our Patreon on Wednesday, as our August Patreon-only segment. If you've been waiting to sign up for our patreon, now is a good time, to say the least. Finally, Amira, Lindsay and I are going to talk American football, because somehow, we are already in late August, and football season is upon us, and of course we'll cap off today's show by burning things that deserve to be burned, doing shout outs to women who deserve shout outs, and telling you what is good in our world.
First, before we get into all of that, as I just said, it's late August. I don't believe it, but that means that the US Open begins this week. We're recording on Sunday. You all will hear this on Tuesday, so at least a day of first round matches will be finished by the time this hits your ears, and you never know what's going to happen in tennis. One of the reasons I love it. And also one of the reasons that we're excited that we're here at the last grand slam of the calendar year. Lindsay, what are you looking forward to with the US Open?
Lindsay: I mean, look, I'm a glutton for punishment, so the fact that we've got Sharapova-Serena first round, it's like, “Have yourself some narratives please.” I think most of all; I'm excited to see what develops. I know this is a cop out answer, a little bit, not high with predictions, but we don't know what's going to happen, especially in the women's tournament right now.
I'm excited to see how Naomi Osaka responds. I think it's going to be a really tough tournament for her, but let's see how she does. Let's see how Sloane Stephens does coming in. She's reunited with her old coach, split with her recent coach and let's see if that'll recapture some of the 2017 spark.
Madison Keys coming off a great week at Cincinnati, where she won the title. Can she translate that into some deep runs. Of course, our thoughts are with Amanda Anisimova who had to withdraw from the tournament because her father and coach suddenly passed away. She's a 17-year-old American who we've talked about in this podcast before, had great Australian Open and French Open. Our thoughts are with her. I'm excited how's Simona Halep? How's Ash Barty? I think there's so many possibilities, and I really... I love, love, love the US Open, so I'm excited.
Jessica: Yes, I'm always excited about the time zone. I'm really thrilled on some level that I don't have to be exhausted to keep up with it. The women's game is so exciting and as Lindsay just said, there's so many possibilities, and on the other side of that, I read that it's been four years since there was a first time Grand Slam winner, on the men's side.
Amira: For the men's, yes.
Jessica: That is a wild statistic if you think about it, especially with all these old men out there. The US Open's always super exciting. It'll be interesting to see if any men actually challenge that. I don't even-
Lindsay: I'm ready for it, I am ready for it.
Jessica: Me too. Please, someone, do it. Amira. What are you looking forward to this week or next two weeks?
Amira: Yes, I'm also very excited. The US Open always falls now for the last three years right after Zachary's birthday, and right after I had him, all I did was binge watch. Now it turned into my favorite slam because of that. I'm hoping that we don't have to suffer through so many look backs at Serena and Naomi, as they return to the site of that whole mess a year ago.
Then also even with the first round mashup with Sharapova it's like you know, I'm really tired of tennis narratives, so I'm looking for surprises on both the men's and women's side, things that up end all of the think pieces that have already been written or up end the look backs that people want to do. I'm ready to be shocked.
Lindsay: One thing I was really glad that Naomi and Serena already met this summer once. At first I was like, “Oh no, I don't want this to happen,” but now I'm hoping that it helped get some of the narratives out of people's systems.
Amira: Get that out of the way.
Lindsay: Do you know what mean? It already happened, and so I think in some ways, that's helpful. I know there's already been a bunch of retrospectives. Look, part of this is, we're... they're just going to be more... you got to stomach it. I think for both of them, it probably helped take off some of that pressure that they've already met, right? I think that, that ended up being probably a blessing
Jessica: Yes, yes, totally agree. Well, we will be paying attention of course to whatever happens over the next two weeks. I am so excited, but now, let's get onto the show.
First up, our segment from Episode 25, which we recorded in October, 2017. We talked about the racial abuse, former English national soccer player, Eni Aluko faced from her former coach, the lack of support from other players on the team, and the problems with racism, and within the English FA, generally.
Shireen: Eniola Aluko, affectionately known as Eni, was vindicated for the racial abuse she suffered by the then coach Mark Sampson. Mark Sampson has since been let go for, ‘inappropriate behavior towards the player.' Aluko testified in front of a parliamentary inquiry after the report of the third investigation regarding her claims was released.
The initial investigation was done by the FA itself and it concluded that there was no wrongdoing on the part of Martin Glenn or Greg Clark, chairman and CEO of the Football Association. In addition, Kick It Out and Women in Football took to great length to support Eni a lot in her struggle against the FA. Now as an England national and lioness, Eniola was not selected for the 2015 Euro squad. Instead, she presented on television.
Now this battle has been going on from what we understand now for more than a year, I spoke with my good friend Anna Kessel, who is part of Women in Football Association, and Anna had some very poignant thoughts to share on this issue, and I'll just read quickly what she said to me yesterday.
“Eniola Aluko spent 18 months of her life fighting for the truth to be recognized. Last week on the FA, after the third investigation finally ruled that she was on the receiving end of racist and discriminatory language, and at last, she was vindicated. The relief and jubilation lasted less than a day, with the governing body at the helm of the truth was being forgotten, rewritten, revised.
Sampson was, ‘Not a racist' The comments were merely ‘mistimed jokes,' and those in charge of the whole bungled affair need not resign. The regime responsible for appointing a manager whose behavior with players, was concerning enough to warrant investigating, who was sent on a training course to understand the boundaries between players and a coach in a world cup year, is the same regime that will now seek to appoint the new England's women’s manager.
Has anything changed? At least the world knows what a shero Aluko is, and whatever the governing body's response, we hope that Eni's shining example will inspire others to also stand up for what's right.”
Now in summation, Anna mentioned to me, the whole thing is fucking infuriating. I think that's probably the best summary of this whole thing. We wanted to discuss this because we felt it was very important. Jess?
Jessica: Yes. Well, one of the things I kept thinking about with Aluko is that she sits at this really precarious intersection, right? As we've seen in the wake of Harvey Weinstein, the unraveling that's happening in Hollywood, and the Larry Nassar case in gymnastics, many women don't come forward to report harassment and abuse at the hands of men in particular, because they fear they're not going to be believed, and as we all know, they have a right to fear that.
But we also know that when it comes to racism, many people of color don't say anything for the same exact reason, and if they do speak up, they're the ones who are supposed to provide evidence for their abuse. This made me think back to May, when we recorded episode one of this very podcast, we talked about Orioles outfielder, Adam Jones, facing racial slurs in Boston, and how the response from many people, including white people in sports media was, “I don't believe you because I haven't ever heard a racial slur at Fenway” or, “where's your proof?”
Aluko, as a black woman, is a person who many people won't believe from the jump, because we see women as untrustworthy, and we don't believe racism actually happens. Then, on top of all of that, she's a female soccer player, and we just talked last week that female athletes aren't worthy of concern in a lot of places and I... good for her.
I can't believe it took three investigations to even get to this point. That alone shows how much we don't trust the experiences of both women, people of color and especially women of color. Yes.
Shireen: For her to take on the FA who are essentially the selection and hiring committee, so she's basically taking on her employers and probably derailed her own career in the process, and she's a well-capped player. She was one of the highest scoring in the league last year. I know I mentioned it was a 2017 year olds that we just saw. She wasn't on that squad list, and I think we on the show have burned this case a couple times. I think Brenda, you burned her, right? In the burn pile.
Brenda: Yes, we burned it a couple months ago when it first came out, and one of the most frustrating aspects at that time and through until just this past week, is that many of her fellow women players didn't believe her. It's not that women can't be sexist or have the same prejudices or be racist, but it is painful to think that she not only had to deal with this FA, but then she had to deal with her fellow teammates not supporting her. I hope it's a lesson for women who doubt women, especially.
Lindsay: Yes, I think one of the most frustrating things when I was researching this, I came across a lot of headlines that were approximately: “after the Mark Sampson's fiasco, we need to understand the subtleties of racism.” There’s a lot there. This wasn't subtle racism. What do we think racism is? I think that a lot of white people really to re-examine what they're line for racism is. Is just calling someone the only thing that you think of as being explicitly racist? Is everything else a debate?
There was a comment, it was “Newton's and Samson's comments, were discriminatory on grounds of race within the meaning of Equality Act 2010, but that was not the same as concluding Sampson is racist.” That was in the official conclusion of this, but what does that mean? Why are we so hung up on whether or not this person is, in all accounts, a racist, if we're agreeing that they said discriminatory, racist things that deserve punishment?
I feel like there's so many splitting hairs and this is certainly not just with Samson. This is with many issues across many races, across many... the entire world. I just think, look, this isn't subtle and we're... people look for any reason to excuse people making these comments, but we need to sometime just listen to the people who are offended, and the people who are hurt, who are discriminated by these comments.
Shireen: Amongst some of the allegations that Aluko testified to in front of the inquiry was that the goalkeeping coach actually used to speak to her in a fake Caribbean accent. I mean it's like that, it's Sampson making jokes with her, and with other players on the team, Drew Spence. Lianne Sanderson actually flew in from the US to support Aluko during the inquiry, and also Anita Asante.
Aluko has been tweeting. She was fairly quiet about this because she's also a trained barrister, she’s a lawyer, so she knows, and her 114-point document that she provided with the FA and she provided with the committee, that was very detailed. She knows what she's doing, and I think it was to see this unravel and to see her not be believed…
She mentioned she felt really isolated as well within the team and Bren you alluded to that, and even just yesterday, there was a piece by Louisa Taylor I believe for the Guardian, talking about how Jill Scott, current player on the team on the Lionesses, said that, “We shouldn't have been criticized for hugging Mark Sampson after he coached the last match that we won. She's like, “We don't like our integrity being questioned. I'm like, are you fucking kidding me? What integrity?
Lindsay: Yes. I was just going to say, on top of all of this, she said that she hasn't received this £80,000 settlement fee in full from the FA, and she has claimed that Martin Glenn, this is a scary quote. Martin Glenn said, “If I wrote a statement saying the FA were not institutionally racist, he would release the second tranche of the money.”
I felt that was bordering on blackmail. This circles back to what I was saying before, we are so caught up on as opposed to just listening to the people who are hurt, figuring out why they were hurt, claiming to be better and taking it from there. We're just so caught up on these labels that we can't make progress, and that is blackmail. That's blackmail. They're not giving her her settlement money until she releases a statement saying they're not institutionally racist. Oh, I'm sorry.
Jessica: Yes, I was going to add when Lindsay's talking about, especially that quote, I mean it's really something to read, the thing that says, “Sampson said these racist discriminatory things but he is not racist,” it's like part of the official line. It made me think, Jay Smooth who is this amazing guy who does a lot of videos about things that we talk about in our culture, especially around race.
Has this great video from a couple of years ago that I'll dig up and we'll put it in the show notes about differentiating between when someone does a racist thing, and then the attempt to label them as racist, and how the second thing is useless, and the first thing is much more useful. On the one hand, they did the thing where they said, “He did this racist thing.”
It was bad and discriminatory, and then immediately shifted to saying he's not racist, which is so useless in this discussion, and Jay really... that's something that I've returned to a lot, cause it's just such a smart way to think about actions, versus identifying people as one whole thing, because then you can have a discussion about that, that really doesn't say anything about their actions which are much easier to label.
Brenda: That replay from 2017 was to give you all some background about Aluko before you listened to her, right now, on Burn It All Down. Shireen's interview with the Juventus FC superstar Guardian, Calmness and author of the forthcoming book, ‘They Don't Teach This.' The book is out this Thursday, August 29th. If you want to hear the full 45-minute interview, we will be posting it on Patreon on Wednesday, as our August Patreon only segment.
Shireen: Hello flame throwers. I am absolutely thrilled and delighted and honored to have the amazing Eniola Aluko on with us today. For those of you who don't know her and are living under a rock, Eniola Aluko is a former England national player with over 100 caps. She is a striking superpower on Juventus football club women's side in the Serie A. She is an Olympian. She was the first female pundit on Match of the Day. She's also a UN women's UK ambassador, a Guardian columnist.
She is author of the soon to be released book, ‘They Don't Teach This', coming out on August 29th, and she is also a solicitor by education if that incredible CV was not enough. Eni, thank you so much for being on Burn It All Down. We are just on cloud nine that you've agreed to come on the show. How are you today?
Eni: I'm great. Thank you so much for having me.
Shireen: I have many questions for you, but among the first that I'm so excited to dive into is, I'd love for you to tell us about your book.
Eni: As you said, the book is called, ‘They Don't Teach This', and it's about my life. It's pretty much an autobiography. What I really wanted to do was talk about the hard lessons in life that I learned all the way from a kid up to present day that no one really prepared me for. We all have parents then we grow up a certain way where we're given certain guidance.
We go to school, we have teachers, we have coaches. They can guide you and tell you certain things, but no one can really prepare you for some of the experiences that you go through in life, and you end up being a student in that way, in the sense that you learn as you go along, and you learn through going through the experience. It's the idea that we can't be afraid of some of the things that life throws at us because we come out the other end stronger, better, wiser for it.
There's hard lessons. The book has nine classes, and they have this lots of different lessons that people can take from the book. That's why I called it, ‘They Don't Teach This', the idea that the lessons in the book are something that no one sat me down and said, right, that you're going to be able to learn about forgiveness, that you're going to be able to learn about self-validation or failure or success.
No one really sat me down and told me what it actually looks like. It's a conversation with the reader too. It's being able to say, I've been through this and I know you probably have too, and trying to zoom out from myself a bit, because autobiographies obviously are about the writer, but zooming out a little bit and opening up the conversation to lessons that can be applied to everyone's life.
Shireen: That's amazing and really profound. I was wondering, in the process of writing the book, because before we started recording, you mentioned a bit of the arc between your childhood and adulthood and the lessons you've learned. A lot of that to me, you were somebody that I consider, and I don't know if you like this label, but who is incredibly courageous.
The moves you've done on the pitch and off the pitch. I was wondering how much of that ties into vulnerability when you're writing and inflecting and reflecting on, and how much of that was easy for you to share, because you've shared very, very strongly, you've shared so much of yourself with the world in change and in betterment of systems.
I'm speaking again about the testimony you gave before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee about your experiences. That was incredibly validating in terms of so many other people's experiences and you've probably changed a lot of trajectories and lives, but was that easy to share? That stuff that's personal, but very public?
Eni: Well, I think when you decide to write a book, you have a choice, right? You have a choice to be on the surface and scratch the surface and say things that maybe people expected you to say or people already know, particularly as a public figure already. People will know a lot of my story already.
The other choice is going deeper, right? And saying, okay, people might know about that story, but they don't know how I felt. They don't know what happened behind the scenes. They don't know that the beginning, the middle and the end of that situation.
That's very much what I've done with the book. I've given a real in-depth insight into how it actually feels to be in those situations. The mistakes I made, the right choices I made, through situations like the Culture and Select Committee. Situations that I never knew were going to happen.
They were complete curve balls, and how you deal with that, how you deal with it in the moment, because you've got to deal with it, right? You're faced with it head on. That was really much a big decision for me. Not everything about my life is in the book, but there's a lot of vulnerability and transparency and being able to say, “I messed up in that situation, I could've done better, and I've learned this.”
The whole premise of the book was about what I've learned, and that's good, bad and ugly. That's what I'm very proud of. I'm very proud of the fact that I've been able to look in the mirror and self-reflect, and write it in a book and share it with the world. I think that's what people, I hope will appreciate, is the openness, is the vulnerability, is hearing my voice through the reading and being able to say, “Oh, gosh, she actually was able to admit there that she messed up, or admit there that she could've done better or whatever it may be.”
I really appreciate the word courage because courage is very much a choice. You can run away from situations or you can face them head on. That's what I've tried to do as much as possible.
Shireen: Well, just so you know, Jessica, Brenda, Lindsay, Amira, and I really look to you so much and what you did and the steps you took as a professional Black woman who's an athlete and really, we look to that and those moments in this industry as well. I don't want to speak on behalf of them, but I’m kind of speaking on behalf of them just to say that you gave us an inspiration, and to continue to do the work that...
I think anybody across the board, be it in sports media in sports and arts and science can take your journey and apply it to themselves, like you said, to learn from that and not everything comes out like a fairy tale. Sometimes the result isn't what we want, but to take those steps and to say, okay, this is what I've learned from that experience.
I think your book is one that... and I can't wait to get my hands on it. I told you my girlfriend is actually going to bring it from England for me because I can't wait for it to get shipped to Canada, so she'll bring it for me. I really appreciated it, I wanted you to know you have a lot of supporters and fans on this side of the Atlantic.
Eni: Thank you, that means a lot.
Shireen: This was really important to me. This question is actually from Jessica and she wanted to take a little bit of a preview into your book. You were speaking about dual nationality and identity, race and institutional prejudice, just sort of your idea about that, because that's something we speak a lot about on the show, and we talk about these topics.
In view of that, what do you think are some of the next steps for women's soccer or women's football in England, Italy and beyond, and how can we apply what you've learned and what experiences are to better women's football?
Eni: Well, I think with respect to dual nationality, I think it's an actual societal problem, in the sense that, we're living in a world right now that's very much trying to push the rhetoric of them and us. It's the other versus the majority. This idea that if you're not the conventional... if you don't fit into conventional boxes, you're somehow not right.
Actually what I try and celebrate in the book, and it's a chapter called ‘Embrace the Hyphen', is the idea that we're all amazing combinations of the hyphenated things, right? I'm British and I'm Nigerian. I'm not either or. In my whole life, people have tried to put me in the British box or the Nigerian box, and it never works, because I'm both. The idea that, I'm not just a footballer, I'm a lawyer, I'm a journalist, I'm a... whatever you may want to attribute, in terms of my career, and so are so many other people.
We're linked by all these amazing hyphens that don't fit in a box, we just are who we are and we need to celebrate the fact that we are multidimensional people, and actually we can still do so much more in terms of our capacity. I think it's a general problem in society and it's up to us to reject the idea that we should be boxed and put in to these traditional roles and that relates to race as well.
A lot of people say, “Where are you from?” Well, that's a complicated question because I was raised in Birmingham, I was born in Nigeria, but I play for the England national team. I'm from all of those places. All those places are part of me, but I think with race and identity, people really like to box.
People really liked to categorize and someone who's mixed race or... how do you categorize them? They're both, right? They're both amazing. Their genetics and their heritage is both or may not even be both, it might be three, four, five different things. I really wanted to speak to that point that actually we need to appreciate the multi-hyphenated dimensions of who other people are, and who we are.
With regards to women's football, I think that women's football's in an amazing place right now where, you're seeing an amazing trend where you're seeing national teams, the players really saying, “We're not going to accept the status quo anymore of poor wellbeing, poor player wellbeing, cultures that are based on fear, cultures that are based on these coach dictatorships.” A lot of female teams just aren't having it anymore.
You can read about it. Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, USA. All of these teams are taking a stand against their federations and saying, “No, no, no. This needs to improve.” I think it's part of that wave of the Me Too movement, and female empowerment over the last three, four years has really moved to a level now where we're talking about equal pay, and it's a genuine thing and a genuine conversation.
We're talking about teams taking a stand and having to protest if they have to, to make sure that they're not getting changed in disabled toilets, even though they play for the national team. These things happen, they're not getting, why should they be flying in economy class when they're doing better than the men's team? Why should the US women's team be paid less when they actually bring in more?
These are all things that players are just not willing to accept anymore. It's... I think it's an amazing... I look at my case in England and I think I was very much isolated in terms of me and the team. In that case, a lot of the team chose to say nothing and chose to do nothing and chose not to take any stand at all, and I think when you compare that to the rest of the world, that's quite disappointing.
I speak about that in my book, and I speak about the fact that as women, we need to really become the most powerful lobby in the world. We need to support each other in our respective stances, because it benefits all of us. Megan Rapinoe standing up and saying, “I don't want to go meet the president.” Whatever your views may be on Trump, that sets a tone for a young girl somewhere who doesn't have a voice and says, “Oh, actually if Megan Rapinoe finds her voice, I can have mine.”
I think as women we need to really be a powerful lobby and I think that's what you're seeing quite around the world. I think England can improve in that respect. I think still in England there's still this label you get tied to it's like this troublemaker if you speak out and say something that's trying to speak to the status quo, you're labeled a troublemaker. Whereas in other countries, you're respected for it, so I think that's where we're at in terms of women's football.
Shireen: I think that's really interesting because you mentioned even the cultures of the United States, even Canada is different than the UK and England in particular, because we know that even in Ireland, the women's team was talking about having to give back their tracksuits after attending a tournament at the airport, they were really struggling with that. I had read and researched about that a couple of years ago, and how the USA prizes the outspokenness of their athletes because the expression is very important and in their cultural context.
Then maybe in England it's not so much. Do you think that there is still perhaps a fear of, not retribution, but just of intimidation of women in soccer? Because we've seen women in Nigeria, protest about not being paid. We've seen in Norway, it happened last year and all the teams that you mentioned. Do you think there is still this... Well, we know there's still a hierarchy of men in sport. Do you think there's still that intimidation that women feel about it, and how can we break that down?
Eni: I think so, yes. I think depending on which culture you're a part of, I think there's different degrees of intimidation. I think part of the problem as well is still the way women's football is structured, in the sense that, the federations very much have a lot of control over contracts, have a lot of control over pay, so when it comes to speaking out against the federation, you literally have to decide, “Okay, well, I could lose my contract for this. I could... I can't pay my mortgage. I can't...”
That really dictates the decisions for players to actually take a stand against something that's completely unacceptable. Whereas in the men's game, there is a balance. The clubs pay and they pretty much play for their national teams for free, so they can afford to say, “Well actually, I'm not accepting this.”
Whereas in the women's games, it's complete opposite. Clubs are only just coming to the point where they can actually match what federations pay. Then there's all that stuff about status and being able to say, “I play for the national team,” my life changed as soon as I didn't... I didn't play for the national team, a lot of things changed. I was willing to sacrifice financially, I was willing to sacrifice a lot of the things that I had for 11 years because I couldn't deal with the level of some of the unacceptable things I felt were going on.
I think I'm unique in that sense, particularly in England in the sense that a lot of people just aren't willing to give that up, particularly if you're on your own doing it. I think that becomes a problem as well. There's this trade-off between what you stand for and being able to pay your bills, frankly. That's difficult. It's really, really difficult.
Shireen: I really, really, really want to thank you for being on and giving us some insight into your work. I think everybody should pre-order a copy of ‘They Don't Teach This', which as I mentioned, comes out August 29th.
Eni: It's available on Amazon, but if you're abroad it's also available on Book Depository.
Shireen: Okay, and that's in Europe, right? Book Depository is in...
Eni: Yes, it's either Europe, USA, anywhere outside of the UK, you can buy it on Book Depository. Inside the UK, you can buy it on Amazon, and I should say there's also an audio book. You can download the audio book, which is all in my voice on Audible on 29th of August too, so that's coming out too.
Shireen: That's really awesome and accessible so that's really, really, really great. Where can our listeners find you? Find your work?
Shireen: That's probably a great thing. Okay, and again, I wanted to say that it was an absolute, absolute honor to speak with you, and I thank you so much for being on the show. We are humongous fans and looking... wishing you all the best for an incredible season at Juventus and going forward.
Eni: Thank you very much.
Jessica: Helmets, pigskins, concussions, protest against racist violence, unpaid collegiate players and their ridiculously wealthy coaches, and displays of intense American nationalism, are you ready for some football?
Lindsay: Oh God.
Jessica: All right. On Saturday night, the University of Florida beat Miami. It's even hard for me to read that sentence, just so you know. This upcoming weekend will be the first full weekend of college football. The NFL is back on Thursday, September 5th when the Packers head to Chicago. As always, the juggernaut that is American football provides plenty of talking points, especially in the run up to the start of the season, but let's start with the huge news out of the NFL on Saturday night. Andrew Luck, the 29-year-old starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts who's been plagued with injuries since the beginning of the 2015 season retired.
Luck was the number one overall draft pick in 2012 and in his first three seasons he was spectacular. Took the Colts to the playoffs, winning back to back AFC South titles in the AFC championship game in 2014, last season he was back. He threw for 4,593 yards, 39 touchdowns. He won the NFL comeback player of the year, Colts made it back to the playoffs and then he had more injuries.
Luck said in his impromptu and emotional press conference on Saturday that, “I've been stuck in this process. I haven't been able to live the life I want to live. It's taken the joy out of this game. The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football. This is not an easy decision, it's the hardest decision of my life, but it is the right decision for me.”
Of course, because this is sports and people feel a particular kind of ownership over these players and forget that they are human beings, Colts fans, booed Luck on Saturday night at the end of their preseason game. Lindsay, thoughts on Luck's retirement and/or the response to it?
Lindsay: Yes, I mean, okay. I was shocked. I was like everyone else. I don't know how you're not shocked by this news. I was actually taking myself out to dinner last night after coming back from a work trip, and was sitting there and I saw Adam Schefter's notification on my phone, and I did that thing where you always check and make sure it's not a fake account.
Jessica: Yes, we do.
Lindsay: ESPN was on the... at the bar where I was, so I looked up and it was scrolling on the ticker, so that was pretty good confirmation. I went through a range of emotions. I think at first I was shocked and sad and a little disappointed, and then as the reactions started to pour out of people calling him essentially selfish and weak for this decision, a lot of the sports talk radio conglomerate decided to have some hot takes such as, “He can't be tired because there are steel workers out there, so he's not allowed to be tired.”
Amira: Oh, no that was so bad.
Lindsay: Anyways, one of my friends tweeted, and I thought this was funny, he said, my friend Curtis from women's basketball, he said, “Man, I've made every single life decision without thanking the steel workers. Am I wrong? What is…” That is not meant to disrespect the steelworkers. It's that narrative, that there are people out there getting paid less and working harder, so you should... you are not allowed to have feelings about your job. It's just a bizarre one, and the more I thought about it, the more I really respected his decision.
He is 29 years old, he's made a lot of money, he is not happy doing what he's doing, and he finds no joy in it, and so he's ready to go onto the next step phase of his life. I commend him for that, and especially in a sport as brutal as football where the next hit could irreparably change the rest of your life, if you are not finding any joy in it, if you have done all you want to do, if you can find peace within yourself to step away, then I think more power to him. Yes. I just have a lot of respect for Andrew Luck.
Then I do have a confession though that there was this other part of me that, when I first heard the news, this was the selfish fan part of me, and this is something that I think is worth being honest about and describing, so when Cam Newton was... The year that Cam Newton was the first pick in the NFL draft, there was talk that Andrew Luck was going to come out of college early, and he would've been the overwhelming number one pick of the draft and the Panthers had obviously that overwhelming number one pick in the draft.
I remember when Andrew Luck decided to stay at Stanford for one more year, that's when the Panthers were like, “Okay, it's not Luck anymore, it's Cam Newton.” I had this initial thought very early on when I found out this news, which was, “Oh good. Now I'm really glad he didn't come to Carolina,” and then I had to second guess myself, because I was like, “Lindsay, come on.”
If Cam Newton retires tomorrow because he's not finding joy in it, would you hold that against him? Would you feel like this whole... the Panthers made the wrong choice? Of course I would be devastated if Cam Newton retired, but I would have to respect that opinion. I do think that as a fan, I have to admit that was one of my very first reactions early on, and that is telling to the way we think about these athletes and what we think about what they owe us.
Jessica: Yes, that's such a good point. Your point about respecting Luck in making this decision, it made me think, plenty of people know this, but six or seven years ago, I made a huge shift in my own life. Where I had to tell people in my life that I was going to radically alter what I was doing, and I could barely do that.
It took me a couple of years of therapy to get around to the point where I felt like I could let just a few people in my own life down with the decisions that I was making. Everything obviously worked out fine. I can't imagine doing this on the scale at which these men and people like that might have to make these decisions and announce them to the world. I also have respect for making that decision and owning it on such a public level. Amira.
Amira: Yeah. I want to address some of the awful takes that Lindsay talked about because not only are they awful, but there's... they have brought out stunning level of hypocrisy. You get a tweet by somebody like Dan Dakich who said, “I have family working in steel mills, cops, teachers making far less and this guy is ‘tired’… my backside.” If you want to remember this is the same man who took a basketball head coach job at West Virginia, where he stayed in there for all of the week, and then after about eight days, decided that the issues facing the Mountaineers were just too vast, and it was too hard, and he walked away from the job.
You also have people like Doug Gottlieb saying, “Retiring because rehabbing is ‘too hard' is the most millennial thing ever,” in which Torrey Smith absolutely eviscerated him by reminding him that he stole credit cards because working was ‘too hard'. That has-
Jessica: Google that! If you don't know that story Google it!
Amira: Exactly, but on a very real level, I think the thing about this that most jumped out to me is, how we think about retirement in football, how quickly it goes to, “Oh, you're playing a child's game, you're making all this money playing sports.” I saw a quick tweet; this is his injuries in the last six years:
Torn cartilage in two ribs, partially torn abdomen, a lacerated kidney that left him peeing blood, at least one concussion that we know of, a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and there's now a calf-ankle injury, and this is just what was on record. This is just what was disclosed. This is just what he admitted to and was treated to that caused significant time away from the game. This is not the day to day. This is not that feeling when you wake up on Monday morning and you can't get out of bed, right?
The other thing that this is, is it reveals the fact that he has come from a wealthy family. He went to Stanford, he didn't... He doesn't need the money in many ways that other people in the game do. I think that's really significant, because there's a lot of people who stay in the game past that point because they're scared to stop making money, because they don't know where their next pay check is coming from because they're trying to earn as much as they can, before being disposed of and told that they don't have anything to do for the rest of their lives.
I think that one of the things it reveals, I'm thinking about both him, I'm thinking about Gronkowski's retirement, but what does the game look like when you pair this with reports that show that rich kids, disproportionally white kids are leaving the sport of football, right? They're leaving it to black and brown bodies who are making the same forced choices people make when they join the military.
It's an option now, but it comes with irrevocable harm to your body and it’s the idea of who gets to retire early, right? The journeyman players who are going back season and season and season with similar injuries may not be at that place that Andrew Luck is, so the game is... They're gladiators. It's like Lindsay said, how can you fault somebody from saying, “I'm done with this.”
Jessica: Yes. Wow. I just read a new biography that's coming out soon about Earl Campbell, the Heisman running back from the 70s. It's a lot about the toll that the game took on him and how hard it was for him to leave the game. That hits on a lot of things. Lindsay?
Lindsay: Yeah, I think Amira made such a good point and I'd seen Howard Bryant, friend of the show, make that same point as well about how... no disrespect to... All respect to Andrew Luck for making that decision, but it does make you think about where does the future of football go if more people are making this decision. Yet we know the people who are going to be privileged enough to make this decision are going to be disproportionately white and wealthy. That's another moral quandary to put onto the whole football industrial complex.
I do just want to echo that I think the reaction that his teammates and players around the league had to this. They all had so much respect for him and show so much respect for this decision, and so much understanding of why he's making it. I think that says a lot about him and it says a lot about the toll of the game, that you don't see any of them that I've seen mad at him for squandering his talents or saying he's not tough or anything like that. They all get it. I think we should... that should tell us more than anything what toughness is.
Jessica: Yeah, thank you. Of course, one of the conversations I started up last night was what will happen now to the Indianapolis Colts and where... what's going to go... How about their quarterback?
Jessica: Of course, the other big quarterback story that continues to this day is Colin Kaepernick, right? He's still out here saying that he is ready, whenever someone wants to call him up. There's been a lot of stuff around what the Colin Kaepernick conversation, I'm not really sure a better way to phrase it at this point, and we haven't talked about it yet on the show.
It's huge news a couple of weeks ago, rapper mogul Jay-Z doesn't really need an introduction. He had a joint press conference with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at the offices of Jay's entertainment company, Roc Nation, to announce that the NFL and Roc Nation were partnering. The pictures of the two of them laughing are really something.
Roc Nation will advise the NFL on entertainment stuff like Super Bowl halftime shows and “amplify the league's social justice efforts.” We'll see what that means. Jay-Z said during the press, “I think that we forget that Colin Kaepernick's whole thing was to bring attention to social justice. Correct? So in that case, this is a success. This is the next thing. I think we're past kneeling. I think it's time for action.”
That went over as well as everyone... as you would assume it did. Kenny Stills, the Miami Dolphins wide receiver who continues to see kneeling as action though, he continues to kneel.
After the Jay-Z announcements, Stills said that the partnership, “It doesn't sit right with me. I don't think it was handled the right way,” and about Jay-Z in particular, “He really discredited Colin and myself and the work that's being done in our communities.” He said Jay was, “Choosing to speak for the people like he had spoken to the people.” The day after Still's comments, Brian Flores, the head coach of the Dolphins and one of the few black head coaches in the NFL, played eight straight Jay-Z songs in practice.
When asked about this by the media, Flores said, and I'm going to read the entire quote here, so bear with me, “After the playlist was done, what you guys don't know is, I walked up to Kenny in front of the entire group and said, ‘This is a challenge to you to get open, catch the football, and make plays for this team regardless of what's going on outside this building.’ The next day, because there was a lot more attention paid to this than I ever would have imagined.” Has Brian Flores been in the NFL?
Okay, “I got up in front of the team and I told them that I support Kenny. I support Kenny. I support the player protests. Quite honestly, they're bringing attention to my story, so let's talk about that. I'm the son of immigrants. I'm black. I grew up poor. I grew up in New York during the stop and frisk era. So I've been stopped because I fit a description before, so everything that these guys protest, I've lived it, I've experienced it. I applaud them.
Whether it's Colin Kaepernick or Eric Reid or Kenny. I applaud these... those guys. I told Kenny that and I mean it in front of the entire team.” Okay, so that's a lot of stuff all at once. Amira, what are you thinking about this at this point?
Amira: Oh, man. I just…First of all, I don't even know where to start. It's just been a lot, black billionaires who have never been as... there's limitations, right? To capitalism as your salvation. I think that both... that Jay's brand and Beyoncé's as an entity, they've done a lot to... A) behind the scenes they've paid bail for Ferguson protestors.
They have skin in the game for sure, but they also have made their brand around rhetoric around social justice that doesn't necessarily coincide with actual liberation or revolution, and so it wasn't surprising to me that in the days after this partnership with Roc Nation was announced, it was also announced that he was going to become an owner, a partial owner in the NFL.
He's been wanting to be positioned in that way and it's the ownership class, and the ownership class has been their owners at the end of the day. That to me was one thing. Brian Flores who just came to the Dolphins from the Patriots who has been one of my favorite coaches in the league.
What he's doing with Kenny is flabbergasting, because he literally looked genuinely shocked that people were like, “Hey, why did you do this?” And he was like, “What? I support him,” but then also like you're making it a story. This is a national story that you're continuing and then being like, “We don't want distractions. I'm trying to see if Kenny will deal with distractions well. Because he hasn't been playing well,” but you're creating it. It's so mind numbing.
It immediately made me think of a recent piece that Tyler Tynes wrote for The Ringer about black coaches and league and Tyler worked so hard on this piece, the amount of legwork that went in to blowing up this particular data and to interviewing people. And one of the things you see within that is that it's very hard to get black assistant coaches and black coaches like on the record to say anything. And I think the precarious nature of their spot in the system to me when I look at Brian Flores at once invoke his own story to say, “I support these guys.”
But then on the other hand insist Kenny should have kept it in house or talk to Dolphin's owners, Steve Ross, before he spoke out about it. All this stuff is what I see of this kind of duality. Like how do you replicate the system and become a cog in the wheel that you're trying to aspire to for your own professional life, with knowing the rules of the game. And I see that situation to me was him being squeezed on both sides, and that it's heartbreaking all around and I'm just utterly baffled by much of this situation.
Jessica: Yeah, it is wild to me that like this is still a really robust conversation that we're still having around what Colin Kaepernick chose to do all those years ago. I said this when we were talking about the settlement that Reid and Kaepernick took and all of our feelings around that from the NFL. They settled with the NFL. Part of what got me about the Jay-Z Goodell partnership or the NFL partnership of Roc Nation, it felt like the NFL won and anytime I feel like that at all, I really question what actually is happening and whether or not we should feel good about any of it.
Amira: Yeah. It gave them a different shield and they can point to their black friend now and they're our money making machine. This just helps that in a way that it is their version of woke branding, very similar to the NBA’s. How they've been able to position themselves as above the frame, cool and players first league, and whatnot. I think this is the NFL's attempt to do that-
Jessica: And it's smart. It'll work. I mean that's the thing, right? Like we all know that it's going to work. Lindsay, what are you thinking?
Lindsay: I'm thinking back to this conversation that we had so many months ago about when we were talking about the players’ coalition, which is a group of players that work with the NFL to fight social justice. They use some of the NFL's money and there are certain people like Eric Reid and Kenny Stills, and Colin Kaepernick who think that the players' coalition is really a sell-out and is giving the NFL a shield essentially. And it's that complex question that you have anytime activism is involved, which is do you work within the system to better the system or do you work outside the system, and what is the proper way?
And is there a way to use the system without the system also using you? And I think that the answer to that is unfortunately, no. So you can use a system to do some good for your cause, but you have to know that if you're working inside that system, that that system is also going to be using you for its cause. And this is, as we've discussed before, this is not a unique conversation as far as activism goes, and the best way to do activism is not a unique discussion to the NFL. It's not a unique discussion to Black Lives Matter. I think this is something that every movement has to deal with.
But I felt the way you did, Jess, when this was announced, it felt like the NFL had won. And I don't think that there really is a way you can be a fully woke billionaire. I think every billionaire is a policy failure, even the women, even the minorities, like every single one. It's like that mentality. But yeah, I don't know. I think that at the end of the day, Colin Kaepernick still isn't on an NFL team and-
Jessica: And he really wants to be, I mean from all indication. Yeah. Before we move away from talking about football, I did want to mention college football because it is back. And it's so funny to me because I have such a rough relationship with college football in general these days. But even when I was just intro-ing this and I had to mention University of Florida and Miami, I still get like as an FSU alum, like I still get that feeling in my stomach, my disgust for these two teams because I've been taught that way.
But I don't watch, I don't really watch football in general anymore, and I certainly don't watch college football. I just find it…curtains pulled back, and I just can't. And so I just wanted to mention there were two things that happened in the lead up to the season that I thought were important. There was an article from the USA Today about how much recruitment costs these days. And it's staggering how much these schools’ football programs are paying every year just to try to recruit players. We're talking in the millions of dollars.
I mean my alma mater, in 2017 Florida State, they spent $2.28 million just trying to recruit players to the team. I mean these numbers are unbelievable to me. At the same time, there was this report and it got a lot of jokes, and it should have, but Louisiana Lafayette, which what even is, like thinking about them as a football school, their coach, Billy Napier, announced that starting this year, all scholarship members of the team will be required to donate a minimum of $50 to the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation. And he said it's “all about gratitude.”
So the head football coach are these players who are not getting paid for Louisiana Lafayette, which is a joke team, when Florida State would play them, it's a gimme, right? Like we're going to easily beat them. He gets paid $850,000 a year to do his job and now he's going to force his unpaid players to donate money because of “gratitude to the program.” Everything about college football these days bothers the hell out of me and I feel like these two things really encapsulate that. Like they have to spend their money somewhere, so they do, right? And they just refuse to spend it on the players, and here we are again having this conversation. Either one of you guys want to get in? Amira?
Amira: Yeah. College football really stresses me out. One of the things that has changed for me in the last two to three years is that I teach a lot of football players that I get close to and they really want me to come to the games. And so I'm going to my first Penn State football game next weekend. I'm already over it. They've sent me like three emails about parking. I just don't want…but it hits different, I think, a little bit when the exploitation is in your face because you know the kids. And I am trying to figure out where that space is to cheer for them without this cheering for the system.
Like how do you cheer for a team when it's… It's very, I dunno, we'll see how it goes. I find myself excited to see them play and excited to chat, talk football with them and things like that. Does that count as looking forward to the season? I don't know. It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth as most college athletics do because the NCAA is involved. As far as I'm concerned, they're like pickles and I hate pickles, and pickles make everything taste worse. Like you can sneak it in and I'm going to throw the whole meal out, and that's how I feel. They're my pickles.
Jessica: Now it's time for everyone's favorite segment that we like to call the Burn Pile, where we pile up all the things we've hated this week in sports and set them aflame. I'm going to go first. I have a quick one. The NBA tucked away in the Friday news dump last week that their investigation into whether Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton, sexually assaulted sports reporter, Kelli Tennant, was finished. And of course they found “There was not a sufficient basis to support the allegations made against Coach Walton.”
Tennant is suing Walton in Los Angeles superior court and that case is ongoing. As Diana Moskovitz points out in a very good piece for Deadspin that will be linked in our show notes. “Expecting a private person who is not your employee and who remains involved in an ongoing legal action to participate in your company's internal investigation of the employee who is being sued is ridiculous. Tennant owes the NBA nothing and her priority is and should be her lawsuit. The NBA could have waited for the lawsuit to be resolved to conclude its own investigation, but its leaders almost certainly wanted to wrap this up before the start of training camps.”
Here we are again at the point where the rubber meets the road around gendered violence and as always, it's predictably disappointing. I'm not sure that it can be anything else though, and I'm pretty exhausted by an entire culture of which sports is an important part, saying it cares deeply about the issue of gender violence and when having to take it seriously, excusing it away. As Moskovitz writes once again, “The problem somehow is never the system. It's always the choices made by victims.”
I can't divorce the NBA's decision, their wording, and that they tried to avoid it all by placing it in a Friday news dump from say Mark Halperin, a politics journalist who many women have said sexually harassed and assaulted them getting a book deal about the upcoming presidential election, an election that has an unprecedented amount of women running in it. Or Casey Affleck, the actor who has settled with two different women who said he sexually harassed them on his movie set, writing and directing a new movie about how all women have died in a plague.
I shit you not. And I cannot even begin to broach everything around Jeffrey Epstein, but you get the point, I could go on and on. That's the point. I'm so tired of all of this. Again, shame on the NBA for handling Tennant's report this way, but what more really can we even expect? Burn.
Jessica: Lindsay, what are you burning?
Lindsay: I'm burning this tweet from Dave Klatsky who is an assistant coach of the men's basketball team at Colgate University. Here is his tweet from late last week, “With nada going on in b-ball world,” basketball world in case you don't get his lingo, “someone needs a channel or site that gets word of high level pickup or high level one versus one games unfiltered and post them for public to watch, hashtag ideas.”
Jessica: He’s full of them! Full of ideas
Lindsay: So first of all, I definitely need to hashtag more of my tweets #ideas because that's the way to set it apart. But this is just obviously super Skylar Diggins-Smith, high-profile WNBA players ended up getting wind of this tweet and reminding him that the WNBA is going on literally right now. And it so absurd that we still have to yell at people, and this isn't just a person, this is someone who works at a university in men's basketball, apparently that has a women's program that shares some facilities with them.
And it's just, it's the blatant disrespect that we see time and time again where people say that basketball is men's basketball, and the women's game is something else entirely. And it's just exhausting. And I don't know how these women constantly deal with it. These WNBA players, they are stronger than I am and I'm glad that they're calling out this crap. He did issue, I wouldn't say it was an apology as much as it-
Amira: It's not an apology.
Lindsay: As much as it was a three-page notes app worth of word vomit where he finally acknowledged that sexism existed. Which is just-
Jessica: He found it. He found it!
Lindsay: As Shireen would say, “No cookies for you.” Zero. I just keep thinking back to his tweet because we're very used to trolls being like, “No basketball or I miss the NBA. Why isn't there any basketball going on?” But it's how far his tweet went to say that someone should set up a stream of one versus one games from your local park. And the subtext there is that would be more interesting than the stuff WNBA playoff push. Like he didn't just say there's no basketball, he said there's nada, nada, and it's just it's so ridiculous and he should have to stay on the burn pile for this because honestly, this is inexcusable. Burn.
Amira: Burn. And can I just say the worst part of his apology when he was like, “Oh, I get it now. I've found sexism, et cetera. And regardless of ratings or physical ability, I shouldn't have detracted from the women's game.” And it's like, dude, you're so revealing. You're a piece of shit thanks.
Jessica: All right Amira, what do you want to torch?
Amira: Okay. Besides that, I wanted to give an update, I talked a little bit last, two weeks, I don't know when, about Gwen Berry and Race Imboden who both did various protests at the Pan American games earlier this month. And worse, could be subjected to punishment from the officials of the IOC. And so now we have that in hand. The CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee sent letters to reprimand both Berry and Imboden for their protests and they both received 12 month probation, which is bullshit, but does leave them eligible for the summer Olympics next year.
But the precise thing that I want to zero in on and burn is the text of this letter that was sent to them, but so clearly was for other people. And what I mean by that is that Sarah Hirshland who wrote the letters wrote the following. “It's important for me to point out going forward that issuing such reprimand to other athletes in a similar instance is insufficient.” She goes on to say, “That they would respect athletes to engage on global discussions. However, we can't ignore the rules or the reasons why they exist.”
These sentences were aimed at others. They were aimed as a warning shot. They said we gave them a slap on the wrist of 12 months' probation, which is still bullshit, but next time we can be more severe. It is aimed at quelling further protest and dissent. It's putting the weight of the IOC behind these reprimands and it's promising to make examples out of any other athletes who dare to raise their voice. And again, it's all such a farce. The fact that anybody associated with the IOC can even fix their mouth to say we're trying to keep politics out of the game.
The Pan American Games, the Olympic Games, all of them are not just as political as any other sporting event, but they are literally the pinnacle of political sporting events. Like that's all they are. All they are. And I can barely stomach that 12 month probation, but I really, really want to burn down this warning shot that they so transparently fired to anybody else who is brave enough, and mad enough, and ready enough to put themselves on a platform and fight for other things going on in this world. The IOC is a piece of shit. I just want to burn it down.
Jessica: And just quick add that this is all going on. While they are taking zero steps to protect these very athletes that they're reprimanding from sexual abuse, and they're continuing to drag its feet on sexual abuse reformed. So they just see where their priorities are.
Jessica: Exactly. Burn, burn, burn.
After all that burning, it's time to celebrate some remarkable women in sports this week with our badass woman of the week segment. First up are honorable mentions, Madison Keys won the Western and Southern open final in Cincinnati last weekend, 7-5, 7-6, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova. Good job Kuznetsova, you're getting there. This win puts Keys back in the top 10 just in time for the start of the last grand slam of the year, the US Open.
Rachael McKriger will be joining the ACC network team to color commentate for University of Pittsburgh women's soccer this season. She'll be broadcasting six to seven games. Her first match was last Friday. A friend of the show and flame thrower, Dr. Courtney Szto and the Hat Chicks hockey team from the adult hockey league in Burnaby, British Columbia, won their tournament in excellent style. Brava.
Shout out to the cyclist who competed in the Colorado classic pro over the weekend. According to a press release from race officials, this women's only race is a “UCI 2.1 classified four-day stage race”. The event is one of only 13 2.1 category women's races around the world, enabling competitors to earn UCI points for world rankings and potential Tokyo 2020 Olympic sports, and the only such competition in the Western hemisphere.
We're thrilled for everyone at world rugby, which announced this week that it will adopt gender neutral naming for tournaments. That means the formerly Women's Rugby World Cup will now simply be the Rugby World Cup.
The upcoming friendly between the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team and Portugal's National Women's Team will take place on August 29th at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, and will break the record for the largest crowd for a standalone friendly game for the U.S. women. More than 44,100 tickets have already been sold. And speaking of record crowds and women's soccer, on Saturday night, the NWSL's Washington Spirit played at Audi field and it was a sellout. The 19,470 attendees, more than doubled the club’s record.
Becca Mann became the first person to complete the Maui Nui Triangle Swim. That's a 63 kilometer, just over 39 mile, swim between Maui, Lanai, and Molokai in Hawaii. Can I get a drum roll please? Our badass woman of the week or the National Pro Fastpitch’s USSSA Pride, who are back to back Cowles Cup champions, sweeping the Chicago Bandits in the finals. Jailyn Ford, the Pride’s pitcher was the finals MVP. She had 15 strikeouts, one win and two saves in only three games. Congratulations.
What's good with y'all? I'm actually going to start and say that I've been watching Jane the Virgin, just like binging hard, hard. So-
Lindsay: I haven't watched the last season yet!
Jessica: So I'm not even close. I'm getting towards the end of season two. So we're almost to the wedding, I guess? So don't spoil it for me, but it has just been absolutely lovely and very fun. I've also been watching Derry Girls on Netflix, which is hilarious. And tell me that I know nothing about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which is becoming a thing again. So I'm also reading, this isn't like the book is heavy, but it's Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe. It's about the troubles in Northern Ireland and it's a heavy topic, but it's a beautiful book. He's an amazing writer and I'm learning so much. So that's been good in my world. Lindsay, what about you?
Lindsay: Well, I am just getting back from, I was in Connecticut for a few days doing some reporting on the Connecticut Sun, so it's always fun to see new WNBA arenas and I was there for a great game between the Sun and the Aces. So that was really fun. And yeah, I think I'll be honest, this WNBA season has already exhausted me a lot, but I am excited for this final push and going towards the playoffs. It was really sad that because of all my traveling, I did not make it to the Spirit game last night, but I hope to make it to the next one at Audi Field because I'm just very proud of D.C. for showing up for that. That is quite incredible.
And I want to raise a martini glass to my great aunt who passed away at the age of 101, and she had a martini every single night. She has been ready to pass away, so this is not a call for condolences by any means, but more of just a celebration. She had a martini every night and so you know, pick a martini or whatever your version of a martini is in your personal life, and cheers!
Jessica: Amira, what's good with you?
Amira: So Friday, my Zachary turned three. He is hilarious. You've heard him on the podcast before because he has no chill, and if you were at our live recording, you saw him just bogart the stage and decide that he was now the show. So Zachary's three, which it seems impossible to me because it means we really don't have babies anymore. And because we're done in that regard, it feels like it's just wild watching kids grow. They grow so fast.
So we had a good time. We got back from Disney, we celebrated his birthday there a lot. He saw lots of animals. He loves animals. He was a lion, he loves lions. So he had a really good time. And then we came back smack faced into the school semester impending. So Monday, all the kids go back to school, which means they get out of my house. So that's low key my what's good as well. So I'm mostly looking forward to that.
And then I looked at a calendar and it's as much as I'm shook that August is already over, it means that I get to see my lovely co-hosts in like two weeks. So I'm super excited for that. So stay tuned for more stuff about BIAD in Nashville, but it is now on my radar and I'm so happy to kick off the fall semester with a reunion in Tennessee.
Jessica: That's it for this week's episode. Thank you all for joining us. You can find Burn It All Down on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you want to subscribe to Burn It All Down, you can do so on Apple podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Google play, and TuneIn. For information about the show and links and transcripts for each episode, check out our website, burnitalldownpod.com. You can also email us from the site to give us feedback. We love hearing from you all. As Amira mentioned in her what's good, Burn It All Down will be in Nashville at the YWCA Shift Conference. You can catch us live Monday, September 9th at 10:00 AM at the Music City Center. For more information, go to our website.
If you enjoyed this week's show, do me a favor and share it with two people in your life whom you think would be interested in Burn It All Down. And also please, rate the show at whichever place you listen to it. Give us five stars. The ratings really do help us reach new listeners who need this feminist sports podcast, but don't yet know it exists. One more thank you to our patrons, we couldn't do this without you. You can sign up to be a monthly sustaining donor to Burn It All Down at patreon.com/burnitalldown. That's https://www.patreon.com/burnitalldown. If you do it right now, you'll get to hear the full 45-minute interview with Eni Aluko. That's it for Burn It All Down, until next week, burn on, not out.